The last two months have seen a horrific spike in rhino poaching in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. The once stable population of rhinos in the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park (Africa’s oldest proclaimed nature reserve) is being decimated. In the last three and a half months, 85 plus rhinos were killed. We are rapidly running out of time. At the current rate, our rhinos WILL become extinct in our lifetime. For the sake of rhinos and for the sake of our children, we need to do something soon.
Click here to read a news article released last week.
We’re losing one rhino a day. It makes me sick to my stomach. It’s just horrific. Terrible beyond words. Unbelievable beyond comprehension. New carcasses are being discovered daily.
How can this happen you may ask? After what has been a good last two years, where the poaching casualties were actually declining.
I believe that corruption should take much of the blame. There is no doubt that more than just the top brass is involved. There is simply too much money in the pot. There are so many links in the illegal rhino poaching chain.
* Whether you are a neighbour to the park, feeding your family by doing the hard yards. Poachers are generally poor people – risking life and limb amongst the wild beasts of Africa.
* Or you are the middleman, moving the horns to the port or airport.
* Or you are receiving the horns on the other side of the world and distributing them.
* Or you are the dealer.
* Or you are the end user.
Everyone involved in this long illegal chain is corrupt. The authorities are being bribed to turn a blind eye.
To make matters worse, manpower on the ground in the reserve is at an all-time low. Budgets are being cut and new staff is not being employed to fill gaps when people leave. Resources on the ground are scarce. It’s a very uneven playing field.
Numerous hard working and dedicated NGOs are involved, but they cannot keep up with the scourge.
It’s a sad tale to think that our children, and their children, may not be able to see a rhino in the wild.
“Don’t give me problems, give me solutions”.
There are several solutions to this catastrophe. Some, like legalising the trade of rhino horn, are controversial. The argument for the legal trade of rhino horn involves regulating a lower price, and as such decreasing demand. The argument against this is that the end user market will expand, as more people can afford the horn. This could make the cheaper horn available to tens of millions of potential end users. Which is not at all sustainable.
De-horning can work, but it robs a rhino of what makes it a rhino. These mutated animals are forced to exist without their horns. There is certainly a feeling of melancholy despair, to see a rhino without its horns. And these animals are still killed, poaching salvaging the remains of the chopped off horn.
Other solutions include more boots on the ground – ramp up anti-poaching manpower. This is easier said than done, as scouts take time to be trained, and are expensive to equip.
More dogs and helicopters are also a costly and time-consuming operation.
Another part of the solution is to put in more educational work at the other end of the equation. End users must be taught that the horn is simply fingernails and is completely ineffective as medicine. But long-standing and deeply entrenched traditional beliefs are difficult to change.
I think there is no one-size-fits-all magic solution. The measures mentioned above will all contribute to reducing the rot. But time is against us right now. We need to act NOW to slow down, and eventually put a stop to this slaughter.
Read this article for a fascinating potential solution, using modern technology and ensuring the genes of Rhino’s would hopefully be saved.
Save our Rhinos. Save our heritage. For the sake of rhinos and all wild animals and wild places, and for the sake of our children.
The rhino poaching bigger picture is summarised well in this article. It gives you a full undertaking of the history and dynamics of the trade.